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For more than a decade, the southern border of the U.S. has resembled a war zone. Aggressive, military-style actions by the Border Patrol have made human rights abuses everyday events in border communities. Alongside this official militarization, armed vigilante groups have harassed border crossers and communities, but their numbers were relatively limited until recently. In April 2005, a new group called the "Minuteman Project" became a national media darling when several hundred recruits gathered in Arizona to patrol the border. Only months later, they are expanding their activities into California, Texas and several other states throughout the country.
Leaders of the Minuteman Project have been very skillful at portraying themselves as no more than a well-meaning "neighborhood watch group." They have been featured on many major television and radio programs and have been welcomed by the governor of California. Their racism and xenophobia are rarely explored, nor their legality publicly challenged. In the coming months, it is essential that opposing voices be heard and actions taken to counteract their growing influence.